CIA Director William Burns suggested that China would be attentive to Russia’s various failings in Ukraine and could help determine “how as and at what point” Beijing may invade Taiwan.
“I believe our impression is that this will impact less the issue of whether or not the Chinese leadership will decide some in the future to resort to force to manage Taiwan however, it is more about what time and how they will use force,” Burns said at the Aspen Security Forum. “If there’s one thing I’m thinking they’re learning from the experience of Putin in Ukraine and Russia, it’s that you cannot get quick, decisive victories by using overwhelming force.”
Burns offered a wide-ranging talk on the forum, addressing subjects that ranged from Iran’s nuclear capabilities to the Russian arrest of American basketball player Brittney Griner. However, he spent the majority of his time talking about his thoughts on the United States’ two greatest adversaries.
He was particularly interested in Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, including Putin’s attitude and the potential reasons for the numerous mistakes that Russia made to swiftly effectively win war and the lessons China could draw from the event when it considers the possibility of a Taiwan invasion.
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CIA Director William Burns speaks during an event at the Georgia Institute of Technology Thursday in Atlanta. (AP/Brynn Anderson)
“I would not underestimate President Xi’s determination to establish China’s authority over Taiwan,” Burns said. “He’s determined to make sure that his army is able to carry out such an operation should he decide to take a step in this direction.”
It was said that the Russian incursion into Ukraine proved to be a “strategic fail” for Putin and his government, with Burns declaring that he believed that the most recent U.S. intelligence estimates would show approximately 15000 Russian soldiers dead as well “maybe 3 times” as many wounded troops. It was the first information since the beginning of the year from an intelligence source regarding the possibility of Russian losses.
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“The Ukrainians have suffered as well, possibly a bit less than that, however important casualties are the main image,” Burns said, saying he believes “Russia plans to get involved and continue hitting Ukraine and believes that as winter approaches and cost of fuel is so expensive in Europe it will mean that NATO unity will be weakened.”
A man holds the sign opposing the military intervention of Russia in Ukraine in front of the Russian representative office in Taipei, Taiwan, Feb. 26 2022. (Walid Berrazeg/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Putin’s inability to “fracture NATO” would prove the biggest mistake he has made According to Burns. NATO will be able to expand its membership. alliance will also include Finland along with Sweden which will allow it to “strengthen its operations.”
In contrast, Russia has now “retreated to a more comfortable mode of fighting” by shifting its concentration towards the Donbas region instead of using “long-range weapons” to establish an impasse and make up for the weaknesses of manpower.
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This might have prompted China to adopt a more “cautious” approach towards its military following the experience of watching Putin force Europeans along with Americans closer. It’s “unsettled China Chinese … because they believed that they could be able to play off a few Europeans against Americans too,” Burns said.
“The Chinese leadership has been uneasy to a certain extentparticularly in the initial days of the war between Putin and Ukraine because of the events they witnessed. Not satisfied with the military actions by the Russians at the beginning of the war and also the effectiveness of Russian weapons. Unsettled by the uncertainties in the economics that this war unleashes across the globe in one year.
“I believe that Xi Jinping’s primary goal is to get through the crucial party congress in the fall and having a reasonably stable global economy.”
Burns also addressed the threat of global warming and stated that it’s a challenge similar like China’s.
“If you think the same way as I do that China is the People’s Republic of China is the largest geopolitical issue our country is facing as the 21st century as I’ve seen the greatest threat to our country’s existence in several different ways comes from climate change.” he stated.
CIA Director William Burns testifies during a House Intelligence Committee hearing about global threats to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. 15 April 2021. (Al Drago/pool/AFP through Getty Images)
The CIA director also reiterated the warnings about Iran’s speedy progress in acquiring nuclear weapons which was reiterated earlier in the month by the French the foreign minister.
He also noted it was in accordance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) “which the administration that was in power removed from several years ago, the breakout time for producing the amount of fissile material was just a bit more than one year.”
He also said that “same breakout duration can be measured in a whole year instead, but by weeks.”
Burns also informed the audience during his appearance at the Aspen Security Forum he was in Afghanistan during the week preceding that the U.S. had withdrawn.
“I’d like to say, just like the president has stated publicly, we never believed we would see the Afghan government would be able to flee as fast as they did, nor in the sense that the Afghan military would fall as quickly like it was.
“Having stated that I believe CIA was at the very least at the pessimistic side of the spectrum in the sense of noting, for instance during the spring and summermonths, the obvious ways the Taliban were rapidly growing and dissolving in many ways, not only the political leadership as well as the military.”